Reprinted with permission from Creators.
Coretta Scott King saw this coming.
“Struggle is a never-ending process,” she wrote a year after her husband, Martin, was killed. “Freedom is never really won. You earn it and win it in every generation.”
The fight is upon us, again.
First stop: Dodge City, Kansas. Two weeks before Election Day, officials moved the polling place for this mostly Hispanic town of about 30,000 to a single location that is inaccessible to public transportation.
One polling place, more than a mile away from the nearest bus station. As a Kansas City Star editorial noted, freight trains sometimes block traffic, further slowing access to the poll location.
Outrage was loud and coast-to-coast. Within days, activists had mobilized to get voters to the polls. On Tuesday, the mayor vowed, in a statement written in both English and Spanish on Facebook, that the city would provide free door-to-door transportation to vote for anyone calling to schedule it. He also outlined the early-voting hours and absentee-voting provisions.
Next stop: Georgia. Republican Secretary of State Brian Kemp, who is white, is in a close race for governor against Democrat Stacey Abrams, who is black. Last year, after making clear his candidacy for governor, Kemp purged the registrations of nearly 670,000 voters because they hadn’t voted in a while. He’s put on hold another 53,000 voter registrations.
The AP recently reported: “An analysis of the records obtained by The Associated Press reveals racial disparity in the process. Georgia’s population is approximately 32 percent black, according to the U.S. Census, but the list of voter registrations on hold with Kemp’s office is nearly 70 percent black.”
Kemp is also enforcing an “exact match” test for voters. As Vox explains, “under this system, information on a voter application must exactly match data on file with the state’s Department of Driver Services or the Social Security Administration. If the information does not match — often due to things like a misspelled name, a middle name not being fully written out, or a missing hyphen — an application is held for additional screening and the applicant is notified and given a period to correct their information.”
One more thing: Kemp has refused to recuse himself if the gubernatorial race goes to a recount.
“They’re not even trying to pretend they’ll be fair,” a black colleague said to me this week. “It’s all-out war.”
Georgia needs more than its black voters to elect the nation’s first female black governor. White voters must stand tall in opposition to Kemp’s attempts of voter suppression. I am reminded of the late great editor Gene Patterson, who took his fellow white Southerners to task in 1963 after white Klansmen bombed the 16th Street Baptist Church in Birmingham, Alabama, in 1963, killing four little black girls.
“Let us not lay the blame on some brutal fool who didn’t know any better,” he wrote for The Atlanta Constitution.
“We know better. We created the day. We bear the judgment. May God have mercy on the poor South that has been so led. May what has happened to hasten the day when the good South, which does live and have great being, will rise to this challenge of racial understanding and common humanity (and), in the full power of its unasserted courage, assert itself.”
We know better.
We created the day.
Earlier this week, TV talk show host Megyn Kelly, formerly of Fox so-called News and now with NBC, implored her on-air panel of guests to explain “what is racist” about white people wearing blackface for a Halloween costume. It was OK when she was a kid, she insisted.
She was born in 1970. That was five years after black Americans were bludgeoned by Alabama state troopers for peacefully marching for the right to vote. It was two years after Martin Luther King Jr. was assassinated.
When Kelly was 4, Arthur Ashe became the first black man to win Wimbledon. When she was 6, Alex Haley’s “Roots” aired for eight straight nights on prime-time television.
Outrage was immediate — and persuasive. Hours after she defended blackface as a once-a-year party thing, she walked back her comments.
“I realize now that such behavior is indeed wrong, and I am sorry,” she said in an email to colleagues. “The history of blackface in our culture is abhorrent; the wounds too deep.”
I’m glad she’s caught up with history.
Every morning, each of us answers the same question, consciously or not: Will this be the day we give up, or is this the day we keep fighting?
Feet on the floor, friends. The fight goes on.
Connie Schultz is a Pulitzer Prize-winning columnist and professional in residence at Kent State University’s school of journalism. She is the author of two books, including “…and His Lovely Wife,” which chronicled the successful race of her husband, Sherrod Brown, for the U.S. Senate. To find out more about Connie Schultz (email@example.com) and read her past columns, please visit the Creators Syndicate webpage at www.creators.com.